US 20070108148 A1
A storage and organizer apparatus has a shelf and a shelf support structure supporting the shelf when fully assembled and/or installed for use. At least a part of the storage and organizer apparatus is formed of a full hard steel material. The shelf can be supported by full hard steel components of the shelf support structure.
1. A storage apparatus comprising:
a shelf; and
a shelf support structure supporting the shelf fully assembled and/or installed, wherein at least a part of the storage apparatus is formed of a full hard steel material.
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12. An organizer system comprising:
a plurality of shelves;
a horizontal top support rail mounted to a wall;
a plurality of upright risers suspended from the top support rail and mounted to the wall, each of the plurality of upright risers having a plurality of mounting openings; and
a plurality of shelf mounting brackets mounted to the upright risers using selected ones of the openings,
wherein the horizontal top support rail, the plurality of upright risers, and the plurality of shelf mounting brackets are at least partially formed from a full hard steel material meeting the ASTM A 109 Temper No. 1 (Hard) material standard or the JIS G3141 SPCC-1D material standard.
This application claims priority benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119 of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/736,717, which was filed on Nov. 15, 2005, and the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference.
1. Field of the Disclosure
The present disclosure is generally directed to components for organizer and storage systems, and more particularly to components for such systems formed from hard temper or full hard steel.
2. Description of Related Art
Organizer and storage systems that employ shelves are widely known for use in closets, kitchen pantries, garages, laundry rooms, and the like. Conventional organizer and storage systems typically employ one or more shelves supported by a support structure in an in-use position and orientation. Shelving systems can be employed in a number of different arrangements. Free-standing shelving units are known and typically have vertical legs that interconnect and support a series of spaced apart shelves. Wall mounted shelves are also known to mount directly to a wall surface with braces to support the shelf or are also known to employ mounting brackets suspended from vertical risers or uprights that are mounted to a wall surface. In this type of system, the uprights can also sometimes be suspended from or supported by one or more horizontal mounting rails that are mounted directly to the wall surface.
The various bracket and support components are typically formed and configured from formable or ductile steel materials. These materials include hot rolled, pickled and oiled sheet metal or cold rolled annealed sheet metal. These ductile or formable steels are particularly suited for being bent and formed to desired shapes. As an alternative, manufacturers can use high strength, low alloy steel materials to produce the mounting hardware for these types of storage and organizer systems.
These soft steels have considerably lower strength than hard temper steel, otherwise known as full hard or strain hardened steel. These soft steels, without adding alloying materials, have lower strength as a result of undergoing annealing or other processes. However, soft steels typically do not fracture when subjected to severe stamping and bending operations during manufacture of components. In contrast, hard temper steel, though much stronger, has been considered too brittle to withstand even nominal stamping and bending operations. High strength, low alloy steel can also be produced that is capable of withstanding severe stamping and bending operations. However, steel alloy materials are significantly more costly to produce, resulting in cost prohibitive parts.
Because of the material's superior formability, the soft hot rolled, pickled and oiled sheet metal and cold rolled, annealed sheet metal materials have been and continue to be considered the only commercially viable metal materials for forming storage and organizer hardware components. Hardware components including the vertical legs, risers, mounting brackets, uprights, and top rails for organizer and storage systems typically require significant forming resulting in multi-contoured shapes when formed as a suitable component. Hot rolled steel is cheaper than cold rolled steel and can be formed by casting a steel slab, reheating the slab, and hot rolling it down to a formable sheet metal. However, hot rolled sheet metal lacks strength and can only be rolled down to a relatively thick gage, on the order of about 0.060 inches. Cold rolled steel is hot rolled steel that is cold rolled to a thinner gage and to a full hard temper state, and then annealed to render the steel formable. Cold rolled steel can be produced to a thinner gage, on the order of between about 0.040 down to about 0.010 inches. Cold rolled annealed steel is also formable, but also lacks strength. The annealing process also increases the cost of producing the material.
Thus, there are a number of drawbacks to using these softer steels and steel alloys to form storage organizer system components. One drawback to using the softer steel materials is that the material loses some of its strength when annealed or hot rolled. These materials typically have a much lower strength and lower yield than hard temper sheet steel. Accordingly, the material gage must be thicker for the softer steels in order to compensate for the lower material strength to insure the product or component has adequate load strength. The high strength, low alloy steels are significantly cost prohibitive.
Objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following description in conjunction with the drawing figures.
The hardware components described herein can be generally used in organizer and storage systems and can be constructed from hard temper or full hard steel in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. Performance and material composition characteristics for full hard or hard temper steel material is defined in the American and Asian standards ASTM A 109 Temper No. 1 (Hard) or JIS G3141 SPCC-1D, respectively. Steel specifications that meet these standards are considered to be hard temper or full hard. Full hard steel is typically known for having very high yield and ultimate strength, but also for being particularly brittle and suitable mostly for flat sheet usage. Full hard steel can be nearly twice as strong as softer, formable steel material of the same gage, but is typically known to fracture when attempts are made to form the sheet steel into complex shapes. Full hard steel is also cheaper and stronger than the softer steel materials noted above because it does not undergo any processes to render the material more formable and, thus, requires fewer finishing and process treatment steps to manufacture.
Because hard temper or full hard steel is so much stronger than traditionally formable soft steel materials, a significantly thinner gage material can be used to create a component having comparable strength. This results in lower cost, lighter weight components of adequate or even superior strength. Use of full hard steel permits significant reduction in the stock sheet thickness because of the material's superior strength. The inventors have discovered that, by significantly reducing the material gage, full hard steel sheet has increased formability and, when formed, can produce a component with sufficient if not superior strength in comparison to components formed of much thicker gage, softer or more ductile steel. For some components with more severe forming requirements, slight design changes can be employed so the part can be formed successfully.
The invention generally involves employing full hard steel to form metal hardware components for organizer systems. Such components made from hard temper or full hard steel have previously not been commercially available and not recognized within the industry as suitable possible replacements for conventional components fabricated from traditional thicker gage, softer steels or expensive high strength, low alloy steels. The disclosed invention offers a superior combination of low cost, high strength, and minimum necessary formability to create components. The industry has previously not recognized, and thus not taken advantage of, this combination of material characteristics.
Turning now to the drawings,
In this example, the bracket 10 includes a pair of elongate, vertically oriented, and generally parallel sidewalls 12. The sidewalls 12 are connected to one another by a bottom interconnecting wall 14 that is integral with each of the sidewalls 12. As best depicted in
Each sidewall 12 of the bracket includes a shelf support finger or blade 20 projecting forward from the front end 22 of the bracket 10. Each sidewall 12 also has both a hook 24 and a tab 26 projecting rearward from the rear end 28 of the bracket 10. When in use, the hooks 24 and tabs 26 are received in selected slots 30 of an upright or riser 32 to mount the bracket 10 to the riser 32 (see
The material thickness or gage of the disclosed bracket example can vary and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present disclosure. For example, depending on the degree of draw, bend, or curvature desired for a particular component, the thickness could vary to accommodate it. Further, depending on the strength requirements of a particular component, the thickness of the material can also vary. In this example, a substantially strong bracket can be produced using a material having a thickness, for example, of approximately 0.031 inches (0.8 mm). The material thickness or gage of the disclosed bracket can be about 20% to about 50% thinner than a similar bracket made from the conventional soft steel materials noted above, while providing the same, or even significantly greater, strength characteristics.
The bracket 10 depicted in
Utilizing full hard steel to form a mounting bracket 10 as shown in
It is well known that full hard steel can be painted so that the finished brackets and/or other components will look essentially the same as any other bracket constructed from conventional annealed steel material. The disclosed bracket 10 for a shelf organizer system will be significantly cheaper, and can be approximately 20-50% cheaper utilizing full hard steel material. Material cost for components of this type can be about 80% to about 90% of the bare formed part cost; so material savings results in direct cost savings. The disclosed bracket 10 can also be significantly lighter than and just as strong as, if not stronger than, the conventional more ductile, thicker gage steel brackets.
The front wall 38 of the riser as shown herein includes a plurality of elongate, longitudinally oriented slots 30 arranged in adjacent spaced apart pairs along the front wall 38. A plurality of fastener openings 44 are also shown punched through the front wall 38 within the array of slots 30. These slots 30 and fastener openings 44 can be easily punched in the full hard steel material before or after the riser walls 38, 40 are bent.
The riser 32 disclosed in this example is formed from a full hard thin gage steel and results in a component that is equally strong or stronger than a conventional riser formed from the conventional softer steel materials noted previously. The disclosed riser 32 is also lighter in weight because of the reduced material thickness, and significantly less expensive than conventional components. The significant expense or cost reduction results from the much thinner gage material permissible using full hard steel and the fact that full hard steel is cheaper than annealed steel sheet because it requires fewer process steps to manufacture.
In this example, the top rail 50 has a mounting section 52 and a forwardly projecting hanger section 54. The mounting section 52 and the hanger section 54 are each a generally planar strip of steel in this example having a length much greater than height. The two sections 52, 54 are generally parallel to one another in this example, but are not in the same plane. A top edge 56 of the mounting section 52 transitions gradually at a first bend 58 into an upward and forward extending step section 60. The step section 60 in turn transitions gradually at a second bend 62 into the vertically oriented forward positioned hanger section 54. The back or rear side 64 of the mounting section 52 defines a mounting surface that will lie against a wall when in use. The plane of the hanger section 54 is spaced forward of the mounting plane creating a gap between a wall surface (not shown) and the hanger section 54 when in use. The orientation of the step section 60 in this example is such that it is neither parallel nor perpendicular to the vertical planes of the mounting and hanger sections 52, 54 and a horizontal plane. However, the step section 60 transitions between both of these portions at gradual bends 58, 62 of significantly less than 90° and again using shallow or relatively large radii.
In this example, the top rail shown in
In the disclosed example, the top rail 50 has a number of fastener openings 66 shown as being formed through the mounting section 52 of the top rail 50. When mounted to a wall surface, the riser or upright 32 as illustrated in
The bracket or brace 300 also has a shelf support end 314 at the other end of the body 312. The shelf support end 314 has a wire receptacle 316 that is open facing downward and forward. In this example, the receptacle 316 has a semi-cylindrical shape to match that of a cylindrical wire of the wire shelf. The axis of the receptacle is oriented horizontally and generally perpendicular to the elongate body 312 of the bracket 300. When in use, a rear end of the wire shelf is attached to a wall surface above the flat pad 308. A forward end of the shelf 302 has a horizontal wire 318 that is received in and retained and supported by the receptacle 316. The bracket 300 is one of many different examples of storage and organizer component configurations and constructions that can be fabricated using full hard steel material to achieve the cost reduction, weight, reduction, and strength benefits disclosed and described herein.
Bracket structures and arrangements other than the example of the bracket 300, as well as other system components, can also be fabricated from full hard or hard temper steel and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. In one example, the shelf can be a sheet metal shelf and formed from full hard steel material. Such a sheet metal shelf can be drawn, bent, and/or formed to include particular desired shapes, contours and formations in the metal sheet to add rigidity and strength to the finished part. In another example, the direct-to-wall mount bracket can support the shelf from below, and not from above as in the example of
The disclosed examples of storage and organizer systems and components are provided to illustrate that many different components and component configurations can be constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. In each of the examples herein, the full hard steel component has a 3-dimensional formation. Parts of each component are formed out of plane with respect to other parts of the component. Such parts for use in substantial load bearing applications, such as shelving support and mounting structures, were previously believed not suitable for manufacture using hard temper or full hard steel stock. The material was believed not capable of being formed into structurally adequate 3-dimensional shapes. The inventors have discovered that the higher strength provided by the full hard steel material permits suitable parts to be formed using thinner gage full hard material. The inventors have also discovered that, by using the stronger thinner gage full hard steel stock, the material has satisfactory formability to create load bearing storage and organizer components.
Storage and organizer system components have not previously been manufactured using full hard steel. This is in part because manufacturers have believed full hard steel to be too brittle to withstand any substantial 3-dimensional forming. The inventors have recognized that, by using a thinner gage full hard steel sheet material, the full hard material can be formed without fracturing the metal. In many instances, a component can be fabricated that has the same 3-dimensional drawn and/or bent geometry as a conventional part made from softer, weaker, but more formable steel materials. Once formed, even with the substantially thinner wall thicknesses, the components are more than strong enough to perform satisfactorily during use. The thin gage metal reduces the overall material usage, cost, and weight of the various components, while not sacrificing strength. The thinner gage also reduces strain in the formed materials, thus permitting greater formability. One may sacrifice some degree of formability (see
The composition of the full hard steel can vary considerably and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present disclosure. In one example, the steel for each of the above example components can be manufactured to meet the American or Asian steel material standards noted above. However, different compositions of hard temper or full hard steel can be utilized to produce the various components disclosed herein.
Again, those in the industry of making these kinds of components traditionally have looked to use and develop either more expensive but stronger steel alloys, or softer, formable steel materials in the finished products. Those in the industry have traditionally not looked to use the strength advantages of semi-finished full hard steel material to solve problems in the industry. The inventors have recognized the many advantages that full hard or hard temper steel offers and have overcome the previously known drawbacks and disadvantages. Use of full hard steel to fabricate the types of components disclosed as examples herein offers a superior combination of low cost, high strength, and satisfactory formability. These advantages are magnified for manufacturers, distributor, and retailers. Because each component can be significantly lighter in weight, the weight per unit volume of product is substantially less. Shipping and handling costs can be reduced for manufacturers and distributors. Handling complexity and difficulty can also be reduced for manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers because the components will be significantly lighter.
Although certain mounting hardware components for organizer and storage systems have been described herein in accordance with the teachings of the present disclosure, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all embodiments of the teachings of the disclosure that fairly fall within the scope of permissible equivalents.